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August 2011

Buddleias with a colorful difference

Buddleia,Buddleja,Masquerade,Variegata,Santana. Image © 
In the second piece about variegated plants... Looking at our Buddleja 'Pink Delight' surging upwards as it responds to some fairly brutal spring pruning, I began to wonder why we hadn't planted a variegated variety.

Next time I think we should, see how it does here in zone 5 at the edge of the buddleja's hardiness range. And, I might add, where in the more than ten years I've never seen a buddleia seedling – so although buddleias may be invasive in some parts of the country, not here. Anyway… variegated varieties of many plants are often thought to be less hardy. It would be worth a try.

There are five variegated buddleias and, oddly, three are derived from the popular green-leaved 'Royal Red'.

'Variegata' is the one that will instantly appeal to most gardeners looking for a variegated buddleia, just because of the name. Forget it. OK, it's fairly attractive, its creamy yellow edged leaves set off the reddish purple flowers very effectively. It’s just that it's notorious for throwing plain green unvariegated shoots which quickly take over. More trouble than it's worth.

'Harlequin' is similar to 'Variegata' but less inclined to throw unvariegated shoots while 'Santana', the third of the 'Royal Red' derivatives, is the most stable of the three and also boasts the largest leaves so the variegation is the most dramatic. These all feature reddish purple flowers although the precise shades may be slightly different.

Then there's Masquerade ('Notbud'), raised by the good people at Britain's East Malling Research Centre, where the English Butterfly Series was also developed. To be concise, this is basically an even more stable form of 'Harlequin' and is probably the pick of them all. Unless you fancy white flowers with your variegation in which case try the rarely seen 'White Harlequin' although this is right up there with 'Variegata' for throwing plain green growth.

I have to say that I really like the Masquerade ('Notbud') combination of the reddish purple flowers set against the yellow edged leaves – it's a whole planting partnership in just one plant.